Pancreatic cancer is an almost universally fatal disease, with a five-year survival rate of 5%. Research into both sporadic and inherited forms of pancreatic cancer has yielded tremendous advances in the understanding of this disease at the molecular level. Elucidating genetic alterations in pancreatic cancer has identified various abnormalities ranging from gross chromosomal abnormalities to point mutations, many of which influence the development and progression of pancreatic cancer. Identifying precursor lesions within pancreatic ducts has led to the formulation of a progression model of pancreatic cancer and subsequent identification of early- and late-stage changes leading to invasive cancer. Ultimately, understanding the genetic events underlying the development of pancreatic cancer may serve as a useful adjunct in the screening and treatment of patients suffering from, or at risk for, pancreatic cancer.